William A. Rossi Artifacts Collection
Biographical / Historical
Considered by many to be an expert on the shoe industry Dr. William A. Rossi, spent his life devoted to shoes, their design, manufacture, selling and fit. Born on December 10, 1910, Rossi was a lifelong Massachusetts resident who was introduced to the shoe industry at an early age by his father, a custom shoemaker who expanded into the retail shoe business. By the age of ten, Rossi was working in his father’s store fitting shoes. At the age of seventeen he became a graduate of the Dr. Scholl’s School of Practipedics, a correspondence course that dealt with foot ills and the application of commercial foot aids. Soon after completing the course he entered the Middlesex College of Podiatry.
Graduating at the age of twenty, he had to wait a full year before he was eligible to be licensed as a podiatrist and could begin practicing. Yet after only six years in the field building his practice, Rossi abruptly quit. Citing boredom and predictability of treating “foot-ills”, Rossi turned to free-lance writing. Writing both fiction and non-fiction, his work ranged from articles on science, medicine, industry and business to detective, mystery and science fiction stories.
In the late 1930s he began to be recognized for his writing and research related to the shoe industry. In 1937, he published his first book “The Correct Shoe Manual” which focused on corrective footwear. During this time he also conducted research that allowed him to devise an original and unique scientific system of foot measurement for application to lasts and shoes. Called Podometrics, the project received wide attention and in 1941, Rossi traveled to Washington DC to supervise a US government project based on his Podometrics System. The project however was shelved after only few months due the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the US entrance into World War II. In February 1946 Rossi enlisted in the US Navy and served until the end of the war.
After being honorably discharged Rossi returned to writing but with a focus on the shoe industry. He first joined the editorial staff of Leather and Shoes Magazine and within three years was promoted to editor and assistant publisher. In 1955, he took the job of as editor at Boot and Shoe Recorder where he remained for twenty years.
Yet it was Rossi’s research and writing about the shoe industry that made him famous, at least in the shoe world. He consulted for various companies, serving as a marketing expert for both Stride Rite and Walk Over. He wrote seven books and published more than 2000 articles in footwear publications and newspapers. His most famous book The Sex Life of the Foot and Shoe was published in 1976. Considered an expert on the shoe industry he was often interviewed by the media.
Rossi also traveled extensively throughout the United States, Canada, Europe and other countries attending conventions and trade shows, conducting research and addressing groups including shoe manufacturers, tanners, shoe retailers, fashion organizations, allied trades groups, foot doctors, etc.
But for all his research into the shoe industry he strongly believed shoes caused many foot ills and people would be better off without them. Rossi continued to write and research until his death on June 14, 2003. He left behind a wife of sixty years, three children, three grandchildren and an important legacy as a footwear scholar.
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- William A. Rossi Artifacts Collection
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- Finding aid written in English.